As Tasneem is headed off to France for the summer, I purchased a new camera for our family, so she could either take the new one with her, or use our old one while she is there. Our old one (an Olympus c-3000) was great, but it's a bit of a pain in the neck. The smart cards used for storing the photos become unreadable all the time. (The trick to restoring them is to use a pencil eraser and rub along the gold metal plates on the front of the disk... don't ask me why this works, but it does, most of the time...) There is also a long lag between pressing the button and the actual photo being taken.
I did a lot of research, because I wasn't interested in spending a ton of money, but I wanted a better camera than I already had, and one which was easy enough to use that my kids could take great pictures, but also advanced enough that I could do more sophisticated things with it. I read a lot of reviews, and picked one that sounded like a good combination. Only later did I realize that it didn't have a view finder. I really like having the view finder on my old camera, because it is heavy enough that if you don't have one, it's a bit tricky to get a clear shot.
Fortunately, in just snapping around, it's clear that the new one (an olympus stylus 600) is light enough that that isn't going to be a big problem. It is also a lot faster than my old camera... so my initial impression is great. It's very easy to access the menu options, transfer to my pc is very fast, and the quality of the photos I was able to take by fiddling around with the button, never having looked at the manual is excellent. I have great hopes that once I've actually read the manual that it will be even better. :) Clearly, one of my goals has been met -- my kids will be able to use this camera without problems. As for the other goal, well, time will tell.
I have to admit, one of my pet peeves is all the people on epinions.com or other sites who post a honeymoon review (like this one... written minutes, hours or days after they've gotten the camera). The reviews from this camera (and every other camera I read about) ran from the euphoric to the abysmal. People loved it, they hated it, they adored it, they despised it. There was exactly one useful user review written by a guy who had had his for six months. There were several professional reviews that were very helpful.
In the spirit of professionalism, I'll try to post a review after I've taken a summer's worth of pictures (or after my daughter has if she decides she'd rather use this camera than the other one...)
Sample images (unretouched photos, just sized down to be web friendly)
Extreme closeup view
medium close up
portrait (of Saara)
Obviously, there is a lot more to experiment with, but I'm glad I agree with the euphoric reviews rather than the, "I'm about to throw this camera in the toilet" reviews.